Oldest fossilized forest
Hangman Sandstone Formation fossilized forest
390,000,000 year(s)
United Kingdom ()

The oldest fossilized forest, dating to c. 390 million years ago in the Eifelian era of the Middle Devonian, was discovered by chance while studying sediments in the Hangman Sandstone Formation of coastal Devon/Somerset in south-west UK. The remains, predominantly preserved as impressions in the sandstone, included a series of tree trunks as well as fallen branches. The findings were published in the Journal of the Geological Society on 23 February 2024.

The forest comprised a now-extinct type of plant known as cladoxylopsids (most likely Calamophyton), which although palm tree-like in appearance are believed to be more closely related to modern ferns and horsetails. It’s thought the height of the forest would have been 2–4 m (6 ft 6 in–13 ft 1 in), which although not sounding that substantial would have been tall for this era.

The previous oldest fossilized forest, unearthed in 2009, was c. 386 million years old and found in a quarry near Cairo in New York, USA. Another Devonian forest, dated to just a few million years later, is located nearby in Gilboa, New York.

The study was a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and Cardiff University (both UK), led by Professor Neil Davies and William McMahon, and aided by Dr Christopher Berry.